AS the chips went down, San Beda once again dug deep from its vast treasure chest of experience.
The three-time defending champion Red Lions leaned on another clutch play from the veteran tandem of Rome dela Rosa and Art dela Cruz to ease past resilient University of Perpetual Help, 78-76, in a pulsating overtime victory that formalized their entry to the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Conspiring with an alley-oop play that sealed the Lions’ first win of the season against College of St. Benilde, Dela Rosa and Dela Cruz teamed up anew with the former making the bullet pass to the latter, who scored the marginal layup that allowed the Lions to buck a massive collapse in the fourth quarter.
“It’s really hard to beat Perpetual. They really prepared well for us,” said a relieved Lions coach Boyet Fernandez, whose wards hacked out a 72-65 victory in the first round and completed an elimination-round sweep of their head-to-head matchup against the Altas.
The Lions also solidified their hold of the top spot with a 12th win in 14 games, while dealing the Altas only their fourth loss in 15 games that kept them in second place.
Like in their first-round encounter, the Altas started slow once again and saw themselves falling into a huge 21-point hole entering the payoff period.
But behind an effective trapping defense, the Altas launched a furious fightback that allowed them to limit the Lions to just nine points in the payoff period while scoring 30 of their own.
Nicholas Omorogbe spearheaded the Altas’ comeback, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the fourth period, capping it off with the cold-blooded triple from that forced overtime.
Pouncing on the absence of Nigerian Ola Adegun, who was fouled out late in regulation, , the Altas kept the game close and even gave themselves a chance to win in the extra period, tying the game for the last time at 76 after a Harold Arboleda layup, time down to 34.5 seconds.
The stage, however, was set the stage for Dela Rosa and Dela Cruz’s heroics. Off a broken play, Dela Rosa drove to the lane and found a slightly open Dela Cruz, who repaid his teammate’s faith by scoring on the all-important basket.
“It was a hard-fought win. It was very tiring. I’m just glad we pulled it off,” Dela Rosa, the Lions’ captain, said. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the other guys as well.”
Baser Amer buried crucial free throws, while Kyle Pascual stepped up in the absence of Adeogun in the endgame.
SBC (78) – Amer 21, Dela Cruz 16, Dela Rosa 12, Pascual 10, Abarcar 6, Mendoza 3, Ludovice 3, Koga 2, Adeogun 2, Abatayo 2, A. Semerad 1, Bonsubre 0
UPHSD (76) – Omorogbe 23, Baloria 16, Arboleda 14, Alano 12, Thompson 5, Bitoy 4, Elopre 2, Dizon 0, Ylagan 0, Bantayan 0, Paulino 0, Jolangcob 0
Quarterscores: 19-9, 39-24, 59-38, 68-68 (reg) 78-76